Growing up hunting in the mountains around Ellijay, Ga., where he still lives, Shane Newberry dreamed of killing a black bear — an especially big one.
But 25 years passed and deer remained his biggest big-game success.
Then last September during Georgia’s archery deer season, he brought down a 573-pound bear with his Yukon 150-pound-draw Horton crossbow. The biggest of at least three 500-plus animals recorded by state wildlife officials during the 2009 bear season, it was thought to be the same one that had scratched on a window at the home of Newberry’s 97-year-old grandmother, Elsie Lowman.
Newberry first saw the big bear on opening day.
“The first day of bow season was a beautiful day,” he said. “I arrived at daybreak and climbed about 25 feet into my stand. About 7:30, I heard something heavy walking toward me. I could hear it breathing. Then I saw the bear.”
But it was not in position for him to get off a shot with one of his 20-inch carbon arrows with expandable three-blade broadheads.
“I watched the bear disappear,” he said. “But the next day, the same thing (occurred) on the opposite side. I watched him disappear again. I was not sure I would ever see him again.”
The bear’s third appearance came a week later. Newberry again heard it approaching. This time he was able to take aim.
“He was in my best shooting lane,” Newberry related. “I knew I had to shoot quickly. There was one small opening. I could see his belly angling away from me.”
The hunter fired from 25 yards. The arrow struck behind the bear’s shoulder.
“It grunted and took off running to about 20 yards away,” Newberry said. “It went in some thick stuff and got quiet. I waited about 20 minutes.”
Cautiously, he walked toward the spot where the animal had been hit. He saw little blood. That made him nervous that the animal might still be mobile.
“I circled and then zigzagged to where I last heard the bear,” Newberry said. “He lay peacefully on his side. I tossed a rock onto him. He didn’t move.”
The arrow had hit the animal in the heart.
“You wouldn’t believe how fat he was,” Newberry said. “I’ll bet the fat on him was 10 inches thick.”
Removing the prize from the forest was another challenge. The hunter’s uncle, Hoyle Lowman, brought his Massey Ferguson tractor and pulled the animal as close as possible to a waiting truck.
Loading the bear was a chore in itself.
Newberry’s next move was to haul it to his grandmother’s house. He hoped it would relieve some anxiety about the prowling bear.
Newberry said his father, Frank, taught him a lot about hunting when he was young.
“We deer hunted, but we coon hunted more than anything else,” Shane recalled.
His brother, Scotty, claimed a 300-pound bear in the area several years earlier, but this one will remain a great memory for the Coosawattee River Resort employee and the rest of the family. He said he planned to send the bear’s cape to a tannery, “then try to have a full-body mount made of it.”